Dog by Daniel Pennac

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Dog by Daniel Pennac

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Gorgeous and heartwarming story of a dog that needs a mistress. Common sense truths and compassion permeate though the whimsy and humour of a beautifully told tale.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: November 2009
Publisher: Walker
ISBN: 1406322741

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Dog was the runt of the litter. Unwanted. Half-drowned and left to die on a rubbish tip, you can imagine better starts in life for this scruffy-looking little puppy. But it's not so bad. Black Nose takes him under her wing and gives him a little of her milk and a lot of her love. More importantly, she teaches him the rubbish tip ropes and gives him as much advice about doghood and ownerhood as she possibly can. And then... there's an accident. The last thing Black Nose says to Dog is If you go to the town, watch out for the cars. Dodge, little one, remember.

Dog takes this as an instruction. He knows he'll never be happy living on the tip without Black Nose and so he sets off in search of the town and a mistress to train. But humans are odd. Odder than dogs, that's for sure, and his search proves much more difficult than he could ever have expected. And then, he finds Plum. Could she be the one?

Oh, this is a lovely, Black Beauty style tale. You fall in love with Dog on the very first page and you're rooting for him right to the very end. It's vivid and energetic and full of humour and pathos. Humans, by and large, behave rather badly - there are some heartbreaking scenes in a dog pound, when the black van comes for dogs that have been there for three days and are still not claimed. Although not quite as acerbic as, say, Roald Dahl, you can certainly feel Pennac's views coming through his words. But there are kind humans too, and while Plum makes mistakes, she learns to be one of them - thanks to Dog and the wise advice he receives from Black Nose and Hyena - a dog he meets on his travels.

It's not too anthropomorphic - Dog stays a dog throughout, and it's quirky and sweet and kind. Underneath, it has some real points to make about the commitment required in owning pets and the shared love and happiness an animal can bring to one's life.

A word for the wonderful translation by Sarah Adams too - it's pitch perfect. Some scenes take place during the French mass summer decampment for which there isn't an English equivalent, and if I hadn't been looking out for lapses with my (boring but worthy) reviewer's eye, I'd not have missed a bit, so cleverly does she cover it.

This one is perfect for all animal lovers aged nine and up.

My thanks to the nice people at Walker for sending the book

More animal reads: another individual story featuring a dog (together with a calico cat) is The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. Born To Run by Michael Morpurgo is a lovely Black Beauty-style story about a racing greyhound's travels through live. Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech is a gorgeous novel in free verse and the perfect introduction to poetry for any primary school child. And, of course, there's always Eye of the Wolf by Pennac himself.

Buy Dog by Daniel Pennac at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dog by Daniel Pennac at

Buy Dog by Daniel Pennac at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dog by Daniel Pennac at


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